Learning to drive: how to calm driving test nerves

Find out how to pass you driving test and calm your driving test nerves, with tried and tested tips


There’s more to your driving test than memorising the highway code and mastering control of the car. To pass you might have to overcome your fear of driving, as well as battling fears about being in an exam situation. 

While driving tests can be nerve-wracking experiences. there are a few things you can do to quell any panic you have in the run up to the big day.

Jimmy Ho, from Diamond Advanced Motorists, has a few words of advice for all nervous learner drivers: "Driving test nerves are normal - it shows we are human.

"However, there are too many old myths out there, like that examiners can only pass a certain amount of people, or that you have to check your mirrors every five seconds," he said.

Many need to realise the driving test is a test of safety, something they should be ready for prior to the test with the help from their Instructor.

In terms of practical help, there is lots of conflicting advice out there online about how to overcome your driving test nerves, so Admiral has pulled together this definitive guide.

1. Practise, practise, practise

The single most important thing you can do to overcome your nerves is to be prepared. Cram in lessons with your instructor and get extra experience with private practice.

Private practice means you have to have a supervisor in the car with your, whether that's a friend or family member. You can get short-term insurance to drive their car instantly, without affecting the owner's No Claims Bonus, with Veygo by Admiral's Learner Driver Insurance.

A week's cover is £29.79 (less than the average cost of two one-hour lessons) and becomes even more cost-effective if you arrange cover for longer. If you are heading out with a friend or family member, read our supervising a learner driver guide to make sure they are lawfully allowed to supervise you.

2. Don't tell anyone

The pressure of expectation can weigh on your shoulders, so keep the test a secret and pretend it's a normal lesson. Then if you pass, it's a great surprise that everyone will want to celebrate. And if you fail, nobody has to know. Embarrassment averted.

3. Keep the day free

If you've got your driving test at 10am and an important job interview at 3pm, are you going to be able to give your complete focus to one or the other? If you're working, book the day off, and avoid any other stresses you can.

4. Get a good night's sleep

The Highway Code (Rule 91) is pretty clear on tiredness at the wheel:

Driving when you are tired greatly increases your accident risk. To minimise this risk, make sure you are fit to drive. Do not begin a journey if you are tired. Get a good night's sleep before embarking on a long journey.

As well as getting plenty of sleep the night before your test, you may also want to book your test for a time that suits your body. If you're full of beans first thing, book an early test; if you're not a morning person, book your test for closer to lunchtime.

5. Eat breakfast

Just like the car, your body needs fuel, and if you don't eat your blood sugar levels can dwindle. Not only can this make you anxious and grumpy, but it also affects your ability to concentrate.

There's no need to load up on lots of heavy carbs - it's not a marathon - but a bowl of cereal or some fibrous fruit will do the trick. Urban legend is to eat bananas, as they contain tryptophan, a type of protein that your body converts into serotonin otherwise known as the 'happy hormone'.

6. Skip the coffee (or go decaf)

If you're conscious of staying alert, it can be tempting to down an espresso or an energy drink be-fore the test. Too much caffeine can set your nerves on edge, though, and if you've got a good night's sleep and eaten breakfast you shouldn't need the extra energy.

7. Laugh

When it comes to your driving test, laughter truly is the best medicine. Laughing is a natural stress-reliever, proven to reduce the levels of stress hormones like cortisol in your blood. Watching your favourite comedian or just cracking a few jokes with friends will automatically calm you down.

8. Arrive early - but not too early

Your driving instructor may suggest a last-minute lesson immediately before the test, so he or she should take care of this for you. Otherwise, give yourself plenty of time to get to the test centre so you're not caught out by unreliable public transport or traffic.

Don't arrive too early though - this can leave you with lots of time to twiddle your thumbs and your nerves to climb in anticipation of the start.

9. Talk to your examiner

It's not like the exams you did at school - there's no enforced silence during your test. Remember your examiner is a normal person just like you, and they're not trying to catch you out. Make small talk at appropriate times - when waiting at a red light, for instance - and hush up when it's time to concentrate.